Why Blake Wheeler is better to own in fantasy hockey than Jordan Eberle
Sticking with my recent trend of wingers vs. wingers, this week's match features two who've become cornerstones for their respective teams despite their fairly young ages – Blake Wheeler and Jordan Eberle. Which one is better for your squad, and can we expect either to become a consistent point per game player? Time to find out – Cage Match is underway!
Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications
Wheeler has been with the Jets/Thrashers for enough time that many might forget his early career drama, which initially consisted of being drafted fifth overall in 2004 by Phoenix but then never coming to terms, making him a free agent in summer 2008. He was snapped up by the Bruins, where – more drama – he fizzled, topping out at 45 points as a rookie and ultimately being dealt to the Thrashers in winter 2011. There he immediately thrived, with 17 points in 23 games and then moving up the NHL points leaderboard each successive year (41st in scoring for 2011-12, 29th in 2012-13, 19th in 2013-14).
At 24, Eberle is nearly four years younger than Wheeler and also was a former first rounder (22nd in 2008). Eberle jumped from juniors to the NHL for 2010-11, posting 43 points in 69 games. But in 2011-12 Eberle exploded for 76 points in 78 games, leading to visions of him being a superstar for the Oilers, who by then had also drafted two first overall picks in Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But Eberle's production fell back a bit over the last two seasons, posting 102 points in 128 total games (a 65 full season point pace) and leaving some to wonder when – or perhaps even if – his 76 point campaign will be equaled, let alone surpassed.
Wheeler's success led him to be rewarded with a six year, $33.6M deal ($5.6M yearly cap hit) that runs through the 2018-19 campaign. Eberle's own six year deal also runs through 2018-19 and, at $36M, brings with it a nearly identical $6M per year cap hit.
Although Wheeler played 58 games with Boston in 2010-11, that's largely irrelevant for our current Ice Time analysis, so I'll just include data for his 23 games with Atlanta that season. For Eberle, we can focus on whether his 2011-12 production might've been owed to higher Ice Time that season versus others.